The English-language classroom acts as a platform to practice the skillsets of reading, writing, speaking and listening, giving students an opportunity to refine their pronunciation while honing their grammar. Formative practices in language learning encourage students to make mistakes, learn from them, and in turn, create better usage tools to help them communicate, regardless of the medium, be it a written letter or a spoken presentation.
Outside of campus, within a Chinese context, English learners oftentimes have limited access to apply that which they study inside the classroom, hindered by the rich Sinosphere which permeates their daily lives. As a language instructor, I am always looking for ways to encourage my students to seeks out linguistic and cultural opportunities for practice, and this past weekend, we found just the chance.
Organizing a group of about 20 staff members from Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), we met on a Saturday afternoon for a movie and lunch, entertained by the Academy Award nominated film, “La La Land”. Thrilling us from the opening sequence taking place on a crowded freeway in Downtown Los Angeles, working its way complexly through the relationships onstage, and highlighted the entire time by song and dance, the movie provided an insight to a feeling and place not visited nearly enough by those of us in the audience. Similarly, it gave my students an opportunity to hear English in an authentic (albeit Hollywood scripted) setting, where intonation and tone came natural to the speakers, forcing a trained ear to keep up without relying on the subtitles.
The “City of Stars” which characters Sebastian and Mia sing about is a reference to my hometown of Los Angeles, perhaps the most multicultural city anywhere, where dreams are both deferred and realized, yet continues to remain a landscape which still draws the attention of the world. It was my hope that from the scenes taking place on the Hermosa Beach Pier to the conversations between characters in Griffith Park, that my students could catch a glimpse of the culture which helps define our language. The words spoken and emotions felt on screen can’t be found in a textbook, giving credence to this non-traditional means of learning, far from the chairs and desks in Room 505.
Over the course of the semester, I will continue to look for opportunities to share with the Staff English Class where we can expose ourselves to the underlying notions which surround language, learning more about different cultures, and in turn, ourselves…